Kick-off Football Season with a History of Raymond James Stadium

There is only one football stadium in the country where visitors will find a 103-foot replica pirate ship providing entertainment and quality views throughout the football season. If you're a Tampa local, you know the name - Raymond James Stadium. Located in Tampa Bay's Westshore District and home to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium, or Ray Jay as the locals know it, has been considered one of the crown jewels of NFL stadiums since its opening in 1998. Get to know the place where you root for your team before the season begins.

A Rich History as Tampa Stadium

Tampa Stadium was the first stadium built on the grounds of where Raymond James Stadium is today. It was built in 1967 to host college football games and attract NFL preseason games. Designed with a matching pair of large arch-shaped concrete grandstands which sloped to provide every seat with an unobstructed view of the field, this stadium was indeed one-of-a-kind.

These games were regularly sold out in the original 40,000-seat version of Tampa Stadium. Community leaders began to campaign for an NFL franchise, and tried to get the Bills, Colts, and Patriots to move to Tampa.

Tampa entered the big leagues when the city was awarded an NFL expansion team in 1974.  The stadium was renovated for the Buccaneers' inaugural season in 1976. The renovation enclosed the stadium's open-end zones, bringing an additional 27,000 seats, making the venue one of the largest in the NFL , with a total seat capacity of 65,000 (expandable to 75,000). The result was an arena highest at the center of the two sideline grandstands and gently sloped down to a rounded corner where it met the new sections, which were half as tall - thus granting it the nickname "The Big Sombrero." The stadium earned Tampa national recognition when it hosted Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 and Super Bowl XXV in 1991.

Tampa Stadium hosted the original Tampa Bay Rowdies, who won Tampa’s first sports championship with the 1975 North American Soccer League Soccer Bowl trophy. It would also host the Tampa Bay Mutiny of Major League Soccer, before the Mutiny followed the Bucs to Raymond James Stadium.

The stadium started by hosting the University of Tampa football team, and one annual University of Florida game in Tampa. The stadium’s final college team was the inaugural season of the University of South Florida Bulls.

Tampa Stadium brought the noise, hosting some of the biggest names in rock and roll, from The Who and The Rolling Stones to Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. It also held the record for the largest audience ever to see a single artist perform when a crowd of 57,000 attended a Led Zeppelin concert in 1973 - a record that The Beatles previously held at Shea Stadium.

After nearly twenty years of playing at Tampa Stadium, new Bucs’ owner Malcolm Glazer decided it was time to build a new stadium with the Bucs in mind. The new location would combine modern stadium design and groundbreaking innovation for an all-new experience. Construction began just south of Tampa Stadium in October of 1996 and over the next two years, fans would watch as the new stadium came to life. As a result, Tampa Stadium was demolished on September 13, 1998. The new stadium officially opened on September 20, 1998, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their first home game against the Chicago Bears, formally marking the beginning of Raymond James Stadium.

Raymond James Stadium

Why Raymond James?

Founded in 1962, Raymond James is a financial company headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has held the naming rights to the stadium since its opening in 1998. Since then, the deal has been extended three times, ensuring that Raymond James Financials' name will continue to appear through 2028, marking the NFL's second-longest active stadium naming rights partnership.

A Stadium Brought to Life

At the end of the day, Raymond James Stadium was built with one concept in mind: enhancing the fan experience. With this, the stadium includes various amenities, including 12,000 club seats, 195 luxury suites, and the main feature, Buccaneer Cove - modeled after a 19th-century Pirate village and home to the iconic Pirate ship fans have come to know and love. Taking the fan experience one step further, the Pirate ship is brought to life each time the Bucs score a field goal or touchdown when replica cannons fire into the crowd. Most recently, Ray Jay was given a makeover in 2016, installing high visibility video displays in both the north and south end zones and new and improved video towers in each corner. Altogether, the video displays cover more than 28,000 square feet, making Raymond James Stadium home to the third-largest video display in the NFL – while also taking fans' game experience to a new level. This thoughtful design is why Ray Jay has been a popular choice for various events over the years, including the ReliaQuest Bowl, Gasparilla Bowl, Monster Jam, multiple concerts, film festivals, and three Super Bowls: Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, and Super Bowl LV in 2021.

Raymond James Calls Westshore Home

The Westshore District is proud to be home to some of the largest venues in Tampa Bay, including the one and only Raymond James Stadium. Dedicated to providing locals and visitors alike with a chance to experience all our city has to offer, we provide a wide variety of sporting and entertainment, highlighting Westshore as a premier destination to live, work and play. Explore Westshore with our interactive map and get ready to kick-off this year’s NFL Season in Westshore!

Photo courtesy of Aerial Innovations